Veteran hospital administrator Jim Wilson knew the minute he walked into Lakewood Ranch Medical Center last summer that he was interviewing for a plum job.
Now marking his eighth month as chief executive officer of Manatee County’s newest hospital, Wilson is a familiar face as he makes his daily rounds.
As a former EMT, Medicare fraud investigator, chief financial officer and top hospital administrator at several hospitals, Wilson has seen the many sides of health care during his 25-year career, which he says gives him a unique perspective for the job.
Ironically, Wilson considers his hospital’s plush ambiance as both an attractive benefit but also a slight disadvantage because its beauty at times stands in the way of people perceiving the medical center as the full-service hospital it is. Changing that perspective is one of his first tasks, Wilson says.
He recently shared his views on his new job with the Herald:
Health care is very competitive industry. What’s your strategy for staying ahead of the competition?
We are all in the same game. No matter what hospital you go to, be it Sarasota Memorial, Doctors, Manatee, Blake or Lakewood, that hospital has to provide good quality care to stay in business. I want to give our patients, our neighbors, a reason not to drive past us to get their health care someplace else. We have a nice looking facility. We have a great caliber of staff members. My greatest challenge is to make sure patients have the best possible experience so they choose us.
Local hospital officials viewed Sarasota Memorial’s decision to open a clinic in Heritage Harbour as a predatory effort to attract Manatee patients. Have you seen a negative impact on your patient volume since the clinic opened earlier this year?
Truthfully we haven’t. I look at our emergency room data every day and I haven’t noticed any impact at all. We have more patients who are sicker, which is a good thing for us, because my biggest challenge is getting the message out that we are a full service hospital that has the capacity to treat a great number of diseases and injuries.
What is the relationship between Manatee Memorial and Lakewood Ranch?
We are separate entities but both owned by the same parent company, Universal Health Services. I would call us sister hospitals. We share of lot of personnel. We have a lot of physicians who go between the two hospitals so we have to have the same infrastructure. That’s a big benefit because we have a cohesive, full range of services we can offer to our patient base both in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
What does it mean for patients that Lakewood now has a state-licensed Level 1 Cardiac Catheterization Lab?
Back in August we could do just emergency interventions. If you came into the ER with a blockage that was causing a heart attack, we could do that emergency cardiac procedure. But if a patient came in for a diagnostic catheterization, we could take a look to see if there is a blockage, but by law we couldn’t fix the blockage. So we would then have to transfer that patient to another hospital. Now when a surgeon finds a blockage, it can be fixed right here, just one procedure performed by the same physician, the same staff, which means less stress for the patient and reduced risk.
Do you see Lakewood doing open heart surgery in the future?
Technology is advancing so quickly that, nationally, the number of open hearts is on the decline. There’s now a move to less invasive procedures. Less cutting, better healing. We can already provide many of those less invasive procedures.
How would you describe your management style?
I am my staff’s biggest cheerleader. That’s means asking how can I support you? How can I champion your success? I do that by being engaged. I don’t expect anybody in this hospital to do a job I wouldn’t do myself. We have to work as a team, to depend on each other and have a common goal and that has to be the patient.
Your hospital celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. Looking at past projections, has Lakewood met its five-year goal?
No, we have not, but I really believe we are on target in 2009 to get very close to those goals. Truthfully, had the housing market, and some of the economic issues that have hurt this area in that last 18 months not happened, we would be in a different place. There was and still is phenomenal growth projected for this area. It will come back.
What’s your growth strategy in a weak economy?
Folks are still going to get sick. They are going to have to use a hospital. I want them to choose Lakewood Ranch because we provide a good, quality experience. We make people feel good, feel part of their health care decisions. That’s what will drive patients to come back to us.